Guest Blogger–Cynthia Pasquale’s 3 Tips

This edition of “Garden Clippings” features three tips for more enjoyable gardening from guest blogger Cynthia Pasquale, a Denver writer and editor. She says her gardening inspiration comes from her father, who seems to be able to grow anything, anywhere, anytime.

Early Snow Storm blogJust days ago, only a few lips of clay pots dared peek out from the 18 inches of snow burying my yard. This week temperatures have risen into the 60s mimicking early spring. This microcosm of incongruity speaks volumes about gardening. Mother Nature, especially in Colorado, never ceases to provide surprises. And it is not just the weather that can wreak havoc with plantings. It’s enough to make some grudgingly admit defeat, dump out the Miracle Grow, and throw the High Country Gardens catalog into the recycling bin.

What separates happy gardeners from frustrated ones is simply state of mind. Gardening, at its base, is a game of chance, occasionally won but more often not. What’s important is enjoying the journey.

Risk vs. Reward

I love the exotic and have a long list of quirky plants I want to buy.  Once I tried a guaranteed-to-grow banana tree, specifically bred for northern climes. Even a sunny location and three-foot thick mulch wasn’t enough to sustain the roots over an exceptionally cold winter.

I could enumerate other failures: the magnolia tree, the kiwi plants, even the more mundane species that didn’t like the soil or the amount of water or sun or, perhaps, the neighbor’s dog. But I’d rather focus on success.

I wait expectantly each May for my Porcelain Berry Vine (Ampelopsis brevipendiculata ‘Elegans’) with its leaves dotted in pink and white. It is a slow grower in the Rockies (though considered invasive in many areas), and for years, I eagerly watched for the tiny berries that are supposed to change from lavender to turquoise to blue and finally black. Only a few developed this year, but even this small achievement was reward enough.

Don’t Bet Against the House

My backyard oasis is surrounded on three sides by other yards and because of that, we all share a variety of plants and pests, seeds and weeds, trees and trailing vines. I’ve brutally eliminated a few evergreens to provide more sun for a vegetable garden and plant beans and squash along one naked fence.

This year, I planted some snake-like gourds for shear pleasure. The plants took off, twining up netting and into the nearby plum tree, whose branches jut into the neighbor’s yard. Soon tiny fruits emerged, all hanging outside my yard. I bet the neighbor wouldn’t mind and thought her small children might enjoy the twisting, green squash.

I duly watered and fertilized the plants, and when it came time to harvest, what did I find? Neatly sliced stems. I don’t have gourds to show for my efforts, but I did gain enough peace and serenity during my labors to compensate.

Against all Odds

I gambled this year on broccoli. The plants reached the three-foot mark but never made heads. For the first time, the onions didn’t flourish, the mini-watermelon was eaten by bugs, and the tomatoes and peppers got such a slow start the fruits didn’t have time to develop and ripen. Why then, did the dandelions and thistles have a hay day? The raspberries were petulant, the carrots underdeveloped. Did I mention the dandelions and thistles thrived?

Too much water? Not enough sun? Too little attention? Who knows? Each fall I attempt to assess the problems, but I’ve come to understand that gardening is a Darwinian proposition. That tree has grown taller and not enough sun reaches the iris and produces leggy achillea. Time to trim and transplant and hope the formula is right. I still haven’t figured out why the tulips didn’t bloom, and probably never will. It is love of the challenge and the sights, sounds and smells of the green Earth – not winning every time – that leads to gardening Nirvana.

So I look forward to another spring and my wish list. The Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’), with its wild and grotesquely twisted branches would be a grand addition to my garden. In the meantime, I’ll just hope that next year, Lady Luck isn’t as fickle as her blessed sister Mother Nature.

Many thanks to Cynthia for sharing her insights. What are some of the ways you’ve learned to enjoy the process of gardening? Please post a comment here.


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